Nationwide Execs State Priorities for 2015
At the Nationwide PrimeTime! Convention earlier this week in Dallas, the group’s management told how the new Prepare for Share long-haul initiative will shape strategy for the near and far term. Robert Weisner, co-CEO, said the program had energized attendees. “In talking to the members on the show floor, they are excited for the future.” Here are highlights of other group executives’ comments:
• President/COO Dave Bilas said 262 new members had joined the group since last August and that for 2015, over 300 additions are expected, with around 150 of those new members being furniture/bedding dealers. The group’s sales volume mix is roughly 60 percent appliances, 25 percent CE, and the balance, a mix of furniture and bedding. He said that Sears’ store-closing measures is “a real sea change” for the market as whole, and for Nationwide in particular, “especially in CE, appliances, bedding and furniture. It’s a tremendous opportunity and that customer is conditioned to go our way. Our forte is our knowledge base; we’ll gain and garner that business, but you have to go get it… we have plans in place.” Bilas stressed he was not predicting Sears’ demise, but “if they close in given markets, we have members that can take that share.” He also noted that the RadioShack bankruptcy “could create floor presence opportunities. They sell lots of add-ons. It will help our constituency,” which he said has an advantage in that it is “more nimble than big-box stores, in selling things like 4K and Keurig [machines] in refrigerators. We’re launch leaders.”
• Executive VP Jeff Knock said the group’s premium-product selling skills were the reason the group “on the CE side, beat the industry by 16 percent” in sales volume. “We’re building audio as a robust [4K] panel companion. Furniture and bedding continues to evolve beyond our expectations with the industry up four to five percent while we’re 16 to 17 percent up.”
• Frank Sandtner, senior VP of member services, reported 500 dealer signups were achieved for the Just Say Yes initiative, which helps dealers become effective digital marketers. The program’s participating brands number rose from 13 last year to 31 in 2015, and now includes six CE vendors and some furniture companies. The group has also added financial services company Synchrony Financial to the brand roster. The program is being extended to include an in-store component to create an across-the-board, consistent branding message for dealers, he said.
• Tom Hickman, senior VP of electronics, said the group’s “wheelhouse” remains premium electronics that appeal to early adopters – an emphasis that has a “halo effect on premium appliance and bedding purchases. There’s tons of innovation, and we’re encouraging our guys to get in on it.” While the audio market industrywide is in a flat sales mode, Hickman said Nationwide’s dealers are up 17 percent. In the television category, “UPPs (Unilateral Pricing Policies) are helping, and we see those going further and deeper in vendors lines.”
He also said that industry veteran Hank Alexander had been named director for the group’s Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN) subdivision.
• Patrick Maloney, senior VP of appliances, said the group would focus on opportunities created both by the changes at Sears and by the huge appliance replacement cycle about to commence, based on the impending obsolescence of some 47 million appliances sold in 2005. Nationwide dealers, because they emphasize the premium-product sale, he said, are at an advantage, and achieve “16 to 18 percent higher ASPs than the industry… We’re putting together marketplace messaging that speaks to that consumer.” He said that 2014 research showed 59 percent of consumers still buy under duress. “People don’t wait for July 4th when something breaks.”
Introduced at the conference was Derek Mattila, named director of appliances.
• Bill Bazemore, president of Nationwide Furniture, said diversification and differentiation are the name of the game in the market today. “We’re teaching retailers to get into bedding and its peripherals (i.e., comforters, pillows, etc.).” He also cited outdoor products – which address the “heat, eat and seat” needs of that particular lifestyle niche, as “a huge opportunity.”
• Rick Weinberg, senior VP of marketing, said, “We have a simple member message: the way that consumers shop and absorb media has changed.” To that end, the group’s 360-degree program, which soft-launched in 2014, will be promoted more aggressively in 2015, deploying across TV, in-store digital signage, social media, print, and in-store conventional tools, he added. “We now have a large web services team – we’re super-charged.”
• Dean Sottile, senior VP of distribution and logistics, spoke of the newly launched Nationwide exchange members-only distributor marketplace portal, which he said would simplify buyers’ experiences by making available products from multiple distributors based on both price and inventory, enabling a “quick decision through one portal.”
• Jeannine Chaleb, president of Cantrex Nationwide, the group’s Canadian branch, reported robust growth for her business segment, with a 16-to-20-percent market share increase in less than three years, excluding photography.